Wessex Film and Sound Archive

Raymond Turner, polo stick maker

Raymond Turner joined the Aldershot firm of J Salter & Son as a young trainee straight from school during the Second World War, eventually taking over the business himself.

He came from a family tradition of craftworkers and all of his brothers worked in the building or wood trade. The sport of polo enjoyed much popularity amongst British Army officers, especially in India, which explains why one of only two firms in England making polo sticks was based in Aldershot, home of the British Army.

Listen to the recording

(In response to a question about the type of wood used to make polo sticks)

Raymond Turner
Well, it's a solid root bamboo cane. The bamboo root itself is in a club form used in making the bamboo ball. The other is a willow ball. Then, of course, there's rubber grips and the heads of various types can be bamboo root: a vellum-covered or parchment head in various shapes and sizes; ash is not uncommon; sycamore is another English wood, but tends to break rather easily, even though it's the best driving wood.

 

Listen to the recording

John Norwood
So what do you have to do to the heads?

Raymond Turner
Well, they have to be selected for weight, size, and finally prepared for the shape.

John Norwood
But what shaping is involved? Do you have to turn them (meaning to use a cutting lathe)?

Raymond Turner
Well, I do them on a linisher (grinding wheel) by hand. To turn them would reduce them too dramatically. In the season you do get a bit of shrinkage. It's as easy, I find, to hand spin against a sanding belt as it would be to set up each individual one and to then sort of turn them, which would reduce it too greatly.

 

Listen to the recording

John Norwood
'What work has to be done to the cane when it's being made up?

Raymond Turner
Well, after they're cut initially, then they've got to be straightened, and it makes them supple and you can manipulate them to get them straight. They won't stay straight in the first instance, because they tend to pull back, not completely to their original shape. But this is where you are always fighting it. Seven years is an ideal age for a cane to be worked on.

John Norwood
In other words, it's been seasoning for that time?

Raymond Turner
It's been seasoning. You can't artificially season - you can, but not without detriment to the cane, because they become brittle, and once they're brittle they snap in use.

 

 

Polo stick maker

Raymond Turner with the finished product. Behind are shelves full of rough-turned heads made from bamboo root, ash and sycamore, 4 September 1974

References

  • WFSA tape ref. AV6/M127
  • Hampshire Museums Service reference: CT1975.115
  • Hampshire Photographic Project reference: TD695-25